Disney, NBCUniversal Reportedly Can’t Reach Hulu Valuation Agreement

Disney and NBCUniversal reportedly have reached an impasse regarding how much the former must pay Comcast for 100% ownership the Hulu streaming platform, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

Hulu’s programming includes “Abbott Elementary,” “The Masked Singer,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Bear,” among others.

Disney, which last November announced it would pay Comcast $8.61 billion for its 33% stake in Hulu, could still pay an additional amount based on the platform’s market valuation, including its online TV platform.

Disney and Comcast in 2019 entered in a deal that stated Hulu had a “floor valuation” of $27.5 billion — an amount Disney reportedly continues to stick to. Comcast, however, now believes Hulu, with 50 million paid subscribers, is worth around $40 billion.

Without an agreement to the third-party appraisal by RBC Capital, the matter is likely headed to litigation.

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Disney, Fox, WBD Bow Title, Logo for Pending ‘Venu Sports’ Streaming App

Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery May 16 unveiled the name “Venu Sports” and the logo for the upcoming joint venture sports streaming app.

The platform, which is targeting non-pay-TV sports fans, aims to offer the companies’ combined portfolios of sports networks and certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services — including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.

“As preparations for the platform continue to accelerate, we are singularly focused on delivering a best-in-class product for our target audience, built from the ground up using the latest technologies to engage and entertain discerning sports fans wanting one-stop access to live games,” Pete Distad, CEO of Venu Sports, said in a statement.

Pricing and launch date for the app has not been disclosed.

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Disney Tops Nielsen’s New ‘Media Distributor Gauge’ Ranking for April

The Walt Disney Co. tops Nielsen’s new “The Media Distributor Gauge,” a cross-platform view of total TV consumption across U.S. households for broadcast, cable and streaming for the month of April. The new insight removes the siloes of traditional television versus streaming, and puts all content distributors on a level playing field to allow for additional perspective of current TV viewing.

In Nielsen’s first TMDG report, 14 media companies achieved a 1% or greater share of total TV usage. As the top performer in April, Disney accounted for 11.5% of TV viewing, with 42% of its share attributable to viewing on Disney+ and Hulu. YouTube was the No. 2 overall company with a 9.6% share of TV in April, followed by NBCUniversal at 8.9%, Paramount at 8.8%, and Warner Bros. Discovery at 8.1% to round out the top five. Netflix was sixth with 7.6% of TV, and the second-highest streaming distributor reported.

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“With more programs available across platforms, it’s vital for creators, advertisers and the industry at large to understand what and where audiences are watching,” Nielsen CEO Karthik Rao said in a statement.

This new monthly insight is created by mapping all the various national media distributors — including broadcast and cable networks and streaming services — up to their parent company. Nielsen calculates the total minutes viewed on the TV screen for each network’s services and aggregates those totals based on initial distributor mapping, ultimately arriving at a share of total TV usage for each parent company.

The minimum reporting threshold for a parent company in The Media Distributor Gauge is a 1% share of TV. Similar to the fluctuation of monthly TV usage tracked in The Gauge, rankings within the media company view will also demonstrate shifts that correlate with the seasonality of TV viewing.

20th Century Studios’ ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Tops Mother’s Day Weekend With $131 Million Global Box Office Debut

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes topped industry estimates, selling more than $58.5 million in ticket sales across the Mother’s Day weekend (ended May 12). The fourth installment since the 2011 reboot of the vaunted franchise sold another $72.5 million in foreign ticket sales, to up its global debut at $131 million.

Last weekend’s box office champ, The Fall Guy, finished No. 2 with $13.7 million in projected ticket sales, representing a steep 50% drop in ticket sales since its premiere weekend. The Ryan Gosling/Emily Blunt-starrer has grossed $49.6 million across North American screens and $103 million globally.

Rounding out the weekend podium was Amazon MGM Studios tennis romance drama Challengers, starring Zendaya, which saw $4.6 million in projected incremental ticket sales. The movie has sold north of $38 million domestically, and $68.7 million globally.

At No. 4, Screen Gems’ Tarot made $1 million on Friday, $1.475 million on Saturday and a projected $970,000 on Sunday across 3,104 screens. The studio is projecting $3.45 million for the weekend, bringing its total domestic gross to $12.5 million through Sunday.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Godzilla x Kong: A New Empire added $2.5 million across 2,531 screens, to up its North American tally past $191 million and $558.8 million globally. Warner currently has the two highest-grossing movies of year with Kong and No. 1 Dune: Part Two with $708 million.

Separately, Columbia Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire added $220,000 on Friday, $430,000 on Saturday and a projected $350,000 on Sunday across 1,418 screens. The studio is projecting $1 million for the weekend, bringing its total domestic gross to $111.4 million through Sunday, $197 million globally.

Paramount Pictures’ IF is off to a strong start at the international box office with a full weekend box office estimate of $3.6 million. The live-action/animated fantasy comedy opened in France to $3.3 million. Belgium opened grossing $300,000 at 85 cinemas. Next week, IF expands into 56 markets, including The United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Korea and the Middle East. The movie hasn’t yet opened in the United States.

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Fox CEO: Live Sports Not Coming to Tubi

Fox Corp.’s ad-supported free streaming platform Tubi may have just inked a distribution deal with sports-themed online streaming service DAZN for the first North American launch of sports-themed free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels featuring women’s professional soccer.

But that doesn’t mean Tubi is pursuing live sports content, according to Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch.

Speaking on the company’s May 8 fiscal call, Murdoch was asked if the company’s pending live-sports joint venture app with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery would eventually make it way to the Tubi platform. The executive dismissed the idea, saying Fox Sports content would remain distributed through existing pay-TV channels and subscription streaming services.

“We don’t see an opportunity at this stage or we haven’t contemplated an opportunity at this stage to bundle the sports app with Tubi,” Murdoch said. “I think it makes potentially more sense to bundle sports with other SVOD services, which you’ll likely see as we go forward.”

That’s noteworthy considering Disney CEO Bob Iger, speaking on his company’s May 7 fiscal call, said that select ESPN programming would be coming to the Disney+ SVOD service later this year.

Fox Sports, which will broadcast the Super Bowl in 2025, saw quarterly advertising revenue drop 36% without the Super Bowl and two fewer NFL games (which went to Prime Video and Peacock streaming).

Murdoch contends that despite not having a branded SVOD service outside Fox Nation, the company is well-equipped to participate in the SVOD market with its live sports rights.

“I don’t think we are strategically disadvantaged with not having a subscription video-on-demand service, because we found in the past, we can partner with others,” he said. “The [sports] leagues to tend to partner with others, we can take the rights where we can broadcast to the most amount of Americans possible, and [the leagues] can allocate rights to SVOD as needed. But they’re never going to be able to live entirely without a broadcast network [such as Fox Sports] and the broadcast distribution.”

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Fox CEO on Sports JV App: ‘We Can’t Wait to Launch It This Fall’

Fox Corporation’s joint venture sports streaming app with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery might be in the legal crosshairs of U.S. lawmakers and the court system, but that hasn’t dissuaded Fox chief executive Lachlan Murdoch from heaping praise on the product.

Lachlan Murdoch

Speaking March 8 on the Fox’s third-quarter fiscal call, Murdoch said the app has more than 150 engineers and executives “dedicated to building a unique innovative product,” which he said focuses on sports fans outside the traditional pay-TV bundle.

Last month, U.S. House of Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Murdoch and David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, citing concerns of possible negative consumer impact and anti-competitive behavior as a result of their sports streaming app JV.

Online TV streaming service Fubo in February filed an antitrust lawsuit against Disney, Fox, and WBD, alleging that the companies have engaged in a years-long campaign to block Fubo’s streaming business. The complaint alleges that the JV app “steals from Fubo’s playbook.”

Regardless, the JV this week launched an internal beta app, which Murdoch said he trialed, adding that the unnamed app is an “incredibly exciting” product. In March, Pete Distad, a former Apple executive following six years at Hulu, was named CEO of the JV.

“He is off to a flying start,” Murdoch said. “We can’t wait to launch it this fall.”

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Disney Content Sales/Licensing Posts Q2 Operating Loss of $18 Million, Marvel Reducing Output

The Walt Disney Co.’s content sales and licensing arm, which includes home entertainment and theatrical releases, reported a second-quarter operating loss of $18 million on revenue of $1.39 billion for the fiscal period ended March 31. That compared with operating income of $83 million on revenue of $2.32 billion in the previous-year period.

Disney attributed the decline to lower theatrical distribution results as there were no significant titles released in the current quarter compared to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in the prior-year quarter. The prior-year quarter also included the benefit of the ongoing performance of Avatar: The Way of Water, which was released in December 2022.

On the fiscal call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company would reduce Marvel Studios output from four movies to two-to-three titles a year going forward, with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Indeed, Deadpool & Wolverine will be the only Marvel theatrical release (July 26) in 2024.

“I’ve worked been working hard with the studio to reduce output and focus more on quality,” Iger said, adding that Marvel TV production would streamline to about two series a year, rather than four.

Marvel movies slated for 2025 include Captain America: Brave New World (Feb. 14), Thunderbolts (May 2), The Fantastic Four (July 25) and Blade (Nov. 7).

“We’ve got a couple of good films in 2025, and then we’re heading to more ‘Avengers’ [movies], which we’re extremely excited about,” Iger said. “So, overall I feel great about the slate, it’s something that I’ve committed to spending more and more time on.”

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Fubo Ups Q1 Subscribers, Narrows Fiscal Loss

Online sports streaming TV service Fubo May 3 reported an 18% increase in paid subscribers to 1.51 million in the first quarter (ended March 31). The platform ended the previous-year period with 1.28 million subscribers.

Quarterly revenue increased 24% to $394 million from $318 million in the prior-year period. The net loss from continuing operations narrowed 32.5% to $56.3 million, from a net loss of $83.3 million in the previous-year period.

The company’s French-based Molotov streaming TV service added almost 20,000 subscribers to end the fiscal period with 397,000 subs. Revenue increased 7% to $8.4 million, from $7.85 million in the prior-year period.

The company continues to believe in the merits of its antitrust lawsuit filed against Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery regarding the planned launch of a sports streaming joint venture app. Fubo said it remains encouraged by the public support of companies such as DirecTV and Dish, as well as a federal court’s recent decision to set a hearing date for its preliminary injunction motion. Fubo alleges Disney, Fox and WBD have conspired to force the streamer to carry non-sports content in order to license their sports rights, a move the streamer says stifles competition. In addition, the company contends it pays upwards of 50% more to license the defendants’ content than other non-streaming competitors.

“We continue to believe in the merits of our antitrust lawsuit against the sports streaming JV partners and thank those who have publicly supported us,” CEO David Gandler said in a statement. “We are encouraged by reports of the Department of Justice’s investigation and look forward to our preliminary injunction hearing in August.”

Gandler believes that if all distributors were offered fair license terms, the consumer could have multiple sports streaming options to choose from, access to just the channels they want, and at a price that’s right for them.

“We continue to operate efficiently and effectively as we execute on our mission to delight consumers with an aggregated sports entertainment offering delivered through a personalized and intuitive streaming experience,” he said.

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Disney Celebrates ‘Star Wars,’ Marvel Streaming Series With Free Posters, Hot Dogs

To promote the just-released Steelbooks of four “Star Wars” and Marvel offshoots, the Walt Disney Co. is hosting a fan event May 4, “Star Wars” day, in Los Angeles.

The event, tied in to national Free Comic Book Day, celebrates the April 30 Steelbook releases, on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc, of four popular Disney+ original series: Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: The Complete First Season and Moon Knight: The Complete First Season, and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi — The Complete Series, and Star Wars: Andor — The Complete First Season.

The event starts at 11 a.m. at Golden Apple Comics at 7018 Melrose Ave., where clerks will be giving away series-branded posters until 5 p.m. Meanwhile, across the street at Pink’s Hot Dogs, fans can get a free themed hot dog, choosing from The ReuBEN Kenobi Dog (“Obi-Wan Kenobi”), Khonshu’s Fist (“Moon Knight”), All American (“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”) and The Rebel Dog (“Andor”).  The hot dogs will also be available for purchase. 

Additionally, fans can participate in Golden Apple Comics’ Free Treasure Hunt, which includes a stop at Pink’s Hot Dogs to secure the 2024 Free Comic Book Day issue of Marvel’s Star Wars No. 1, while supplies last. 

Fubo Ups Lobbying Efforts Against Pending Sports Streaming App JV

Online sports-themed TV service Fubo has joined eight media distributors in a joint letter sent to U.S. Congressional lawmakers urging them to hold hearings on the future of pay-TV in the era of streaming, including the pending launch of a sports-themed JV app by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.
 
Fubo was joined by satellite operators Dish Networks, DirecTV, the conservative streaming platform Newsmax, and public interest groups Sports Fans Coalition, American Economic Liberties Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Open Markets Institute.
 
“Recent developments in the pay-TV market, including the programming giants’ new joint venture, a streaming TV service that would control 80% of national live sports broadcasts, raise serious competition concerns that call for Congress’s immediate oversight,” read the letter addressed to Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).
 
Collectively, the lawmakers head the commerce and judiciary committees in the House and Senate.
 
Fubo and other signees, contend that the JV will control about 55% of all live sports, including regional and national events. Indeed, next year’s Super Bowl will be broadcast on Fox.
 
“We cannot think of any scenario in the history of the U.S. where consumer interests have been served when such an important industry — access to live sports — is effectively controlled by three programming giants, which decided to combine forces instead of competing against each other,” read the letter.
 
Last month, Nadler and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch and David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, citing concerns of possible negative consumer impact and anti-competitive behavior as a result of the JV app.
 
In February, Fubo filed an antitrust lawsuit against Disney, Fox and WBD, alleging the companies have engaged in a years-long campaign to block its streaming business.
 
In response, the three JV partner companies — ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery — issued a statement denying that the pending app is anti-consumer.
 
“The service is a pro-consumer offering to a segment of viewers who currently aren’t served,” the companies said. “It will expand consumer choice by creating an incremental, nonexclusive option for this segment of viewers to watch their favorite sports.”
 
Separately, streaming/pay-TV competitors Comcast (which owns the Peacock service) and Paramount Global (Paramount+) question the impact of the JV, arguing it would have limited access to live sports.
 
“For the true sports fan, this product only has a subset of sports. It’s missing half the NFL, a lot of college, has virtually no soccer or golf. It’s hard to believe that’s ideal, especially at the price points that have been speculated,” former Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said back in February.